Two editions of This Week in TV coming up a look back at the all the royal wedding coverage is still to come but first a look at other shows that we were offered in the last seven days.
We kick off this week the new series of Doctor Who with the return of Matt Smith now in his second year in the Tardis. This time the series is being split into two halves so we only get seven episodes and have to wait till autumn to get the second bunch. The timeline switches and swerves as within the first ten minutes the Doctor is killed by the Invisible Astronaut of the title and then is set on fire and sent down the river by Amy, Rory and River Song. Of course this being Doctor Who he is back soon enough and slapped by River for his troubles he isn’t aware of what’s happened as again the timeline is askew and I’m guessing this will be the theme of the series. But the main plot of the episode involved America in 1969 as Richard Nixon is getting calls from a small child and the Doctor swoops into help. Stuart Milligan stars as Nixon however I would’ve liked Moffatt and the BBC to have drafted in Frank Langella to reprise his role from Frost/Nixon or at least my friend who does a bang on Langella impression. The rest of the episode went as normal River Song did her dirty flirty bit, Rory looked a bit confused and Amy looked worried as she kept seeing things and then forgetting about before revealing that she was pregnant and then shooting the astronaut. So much action and so many things going on yet I felt totally underwhelmed, I know that the last series had the mystique of a new actor in the main role, a new assistant and a new man pulling the strings but I just didn’t feel involved in the action. I did however enjoy the American setting from the wild west to the Oval Office I think going to this time in history really suited Doctor Who and I also love Alex Kingston as River Song although I fear that she will soon depart. Maybe it’s just because they tried to do too much in the first episode it felt a bit much but I didn’t feel as into this series as much as I did last year, maybe it’s too soon to decide if I will watch every episode of this mini-run but I think it depends on how strong the second part of this episode is. While we’re on Doctor Who I have to say how saddened I am by the death of Elisabeth Sladen who played Sarah Jane Smith she was the original mould for the Doctor’s Assistant and her reappearance in recent years have proved what a good actress she was, Rest in Peace.
I remember a time when Bank Holiday dramas were quirky life affirming pieces Martin Clunes’ The Man Who Lost His Head springs to mind as does won Robson and Green did years back set in the 1940s and co-starring Julia Sawhalia. What none of them had was plane crashes, multiple deaths, child murders or insane teenagers so welcome to the world of one-off TV drama 2011. Sunday night saw BBC2 screen United a retelling of the tragic 1958 Munich air crash which claimed eight of their number. Also it saw the relationship between head coach Jimmy Murphy and a young Bobby Charlton, who was on the plane but survived. It starts out by showing Charlton’s 1956 debut after Murphy’s coaching got him utilising all of his skill and saw him score two goals at his debut. We then see the team coming of a win in Belgrade and taking the plane which would seal their doom, back to Manchester as manager Matt Busby didn’t want to be docked any points but after refuelling in Munich the plane crashed and the majority of the team lost their lives. For me I felt the plane crash came too soon but at the same time I felt the second half of the drama in which Murphy had to rebuild the team was equally as affecting. Murphy finds against the board members and the fans to put together a squad that was full of young unknowns who yet won their return match. Charlton’s story also continued as he lay helpless in a German hospital bed as his teammates, especially best friend Duncan Edwards, all died around him. Charlton eventually found the strength to come back and rejoin the team who got to the final of the FA Cup before losing. Obviously I’d heard about the Munich plane crash before but I didn’t really have that much knowledge about it insomuch as what exactly happened. I think the plane crash itself was handled well and the drama had obviously been handed a fairly hefty budget to recreate this. Elsewhere the drama survived on the two lead performances from David Tennant as Murphy and former Skins actor Jack O’Connell as Charlton, Tennant just about held onto the Welsh accent throughout and delivered another stand-out turn as he tried to turn his grief into victory while O’Connell continued to impress after Dive playing Charlton as a naive youngster who had to grow up very quickly. Sam Claflin as Edwards, Ben Peel as goalie Harry Gregg and Neil Dudgeon as the head of the Football League all impressed as well in fact the only weak link was Dougray Scott as Busby for me doing an impression rather than an actual performance. As someone whose not that interested in football I did enjoy United it painted a very good picture of a united team torn apart by tragedy and rebuilt by its two central characters.
Turning to Monday night with another true story drama The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher a programme starring Paddy Considine as a London Yard Detective drafted to Wiltshire to investigate the murder of three year old Saville Kent. The murder has been unsolved by the Wiltshire Police who are presented from the outset as dim and old fashioned, not concerned with evidence and therefore suspect Saville’s nurse maid as he was snatched from the bed while she slept. Whicher has other suspicions though and does proper investigatory work interviewing the servants as possible candidates before landing on Constance Kent, Saville’s half-sister, as the murderer. Of course the locals think this is poppycock but Whicher has to find evidence and he soon thinks that Constance acted with her brother William but again he needs to prove it. I don’t want to give too much away but The Suspicions of Mr Whicher was very much the story of a softly-spoken detective who cared more about facts and evidence than general hearsay. He is treated badly by the locals, especially after he launches suspicions against Constance, and also by the press who try to goad him into leaving the case. Considine was tremendous as Whicher, never once talking about personal matters instead being a man of very few words preferring to let his police work do the talking. However towards the end of the drama Whicher’s frustration over growing pressure lets Considine do a bit more with the character and again he excels. I felt the drama suffered from pacing issues starting incredibly strong but dipping in the middle and then hurrying the finale. Apart from Considine, Peter Capaldi did an excellent job as Saville’s father Samuel while Alexandra Roach as the completely bonkers Constance was also fairly impressive. ITV also spent a lot on the design and costumes of the show and it did really feel like you were back in the mid-19th century. Apparently the story of this case led to the creation of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle but Whicher was far less of a maverick and I did like the fact how this show relied mainly on a character who for the most part was by-the-book which is very rare for a detective drama.
A new Derren Brown show is always good value for money especially as he seems to have gone all Louis Theroux trying to expose the tricks that Faith Healers use in order to separate vulnerable punters from their hard owned cash and in some cases actually causing death when the ‘healed’ stop taking their urgently needed medication. In the past Brown’s shows have mainly focused on how he can use suggestion to make people commit robbery, save the day on a plane or win the lottery. But, at least to my memory, this is the first time that he has ever used his trickery to try and bring down a wholly corrupt medium. You could split the show into two halves in one instance Brown demonstrates how some of the healing tricks are done using a mixture of suggestion, people to heal who aren’t fully deaf or blind and the adrenaline that is created during these events with the use of flashy lights and Gospel Choirs. This being a Derren Brown show it obviously has to include a big stunt and it does in the form of Brown recruiting a bog standard member of the British public and teaching them the tricks of the trade. After a short audition process it is Scuba Diving Instructor Nathan who is chosen to portray Pastor James Collins, the fake name is used because of the initials, mainly due to the fact that he has charisma and a bit of an edge. To pull this off Nathan is given a large number of coaches including a former Faith Healer and an acting coach he has to learn scripture and also has to learn Swahili as his character has been preaching in Africa for ten years. Soon it’s off to Texas to put on his live show, while three Derren and the team attend several faith healing events and expose some of the other tricks used, such as members of the congregation filling out information cards pre-show. Nathan does convincingly pull off pretending to be a Pastor but the ending is sort of an anticlimax as the show doesn’t attract as many people as Derren and the team were hoping and despite Nathan giving an impassioned speech about not trusting these Faith Healers I’m guessing the message really didn’t get through to anyone. Despite this I did enjoy seeing Brown use his methods in a different way, most of us on this side of the Atlantic are aware that the faith healers are mainly money grabbers who use faith as a weapon in order to get the funds they need to build their mansions and fly their private planes. While the show that Nathan put on may not have attracted many punters I’m hoping Derren’s programme gets aired in America’s Bible Belt so the naive worshippers can see some of the damage being done by these greedy faux pastors.
And finally we have a new family entertainment game show type thing from the BBC. Taking the ball dropped by the Anton Du Beke hosted Hole in the Wall, Don’t Scare the Hare sees The Gadget Show’s Jason Bradbury welcome two teams of regular Joes and pits them in a series of challenges in order to obtain carrots from a mechanical hare. All three games have a risk element to them if they don’t do something correctly a noise will go off and the hare will be briefly scared, do this three times and you don’t get any carrots to carry through to the final. The team with the most carrots then gets a chance to win £15,000 by using the carrots they have previously won to ensnare the hare and put it under a net, which they ended up doing. All the games were fairly humiliating and involved such everyday tasks as jumping around in a blanket trying to switch off giant alarm clocks before they scare the hare. Overall the thing is bizarre and stupid but it never claims to be anything else. The audience are completely into it shouting ‘DON’T SCARE THE HARE’ every time the hare is scared by one of the contestants. Sue Perkins is also used to provide the sarcastic voice-overs to accompany the games. She describes herself as the ‘Voice of the Forrest’ as it is in her contract and she really sets the tone coming up with some brilliant one-liners. For me this is just perfect for early Saturday night, there is no horrible celebrities in lycra instead this has general public members readily up for making prats of themselves to win some money surely the backbone of Saturday night T.V. dating back to The Generation Game. I think the inclusion of a mechanical hare is also a good idea as it means that kids can enjoy seeing the toy and the adults can enjoy the whole camp nature of it, Perkins’ comments and Bradbury’s berets. The only negative point is that if this does become incredibly popular I fear that we will have lots of kids playing with mechanical hare dolls come Christmastime.
What did you think of this week’s programmes? Leave a comment below
Next Time: The Royal Wedding Special